The First Navy Jack is the current United States maritime flag authorized by the U.S. Navy. This red and white striped flag, charged with a rattlesnake and the infamous words, “Don’t Tread On Me” have been a part of American history in one form or another since 1775. The original Navy Jack was believed to be without words or a rattlesnake, those emblems being added around 1880, as first seen in Admiral George Henry Preble’s History of the Flags of the United States. There is some debate, however, about when this emblem was actually first used upon a Navy Jack.
Whenever and however it was first used, the First Navy Jack, emblazoned with its words of defiance and its deadly serpent, replaced the American flag on all commissioned Navy ships in 1976 when all commissioned ships were directed to fly the First Navy Jack for a full year in honor of America’s 200th birthday.
In 1980, Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo ordered that the First Navy Jack be flown from the bow of the naval ship with the longest active status until it is decommissioned, at which point the First Navy Jack was then passed on to the next ship with that ranking.
The First Navy Jack is now used in honor of those who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks upon American soil. Wherever it is flown, the First Navy Jack is a statement of independence and self-reliance against all forms of tyranny and oppression.
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